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Opinion: Gerrymandering discredits the American political system

Kent Vashaw

Kent Veshaw The results of the 2012 election were a clear victory for the status quo.

President Barack Obama was re-elected, the Senate remained with the Democrats and the House was still Republican.

However, the popular vote showed a different story: the Democrats won all three.

So what’s the deal? How did the Republicans lose the popular vote for the House and still keep it?

This is partially because Democratic voters tend to be more concentrated in cities, which tend to marginalize their voters. However,
The Economist reports that another large contributor to the Republican victory was the new district lines that were drawn – a process known as gerrymandering – in 2010 by the largely Republican House.

Gerrymandering is a serious problem, mainly because it’s so hard to quantify. While we can say that “we know it when we see it,” like in the case of North Carolina’s own District 12 that sprawls across the map seemingly at random, this just isn’t a good system on which to base policy.

After all, no matter how the lines get drawn, one party or the other will probably complain after the results are in. How can you come up with an objective, bias-free system for determining congressional districts when any kind of drawing of the boundaries is inherently subjective?

The obvious solution is to move to a system of election without specific congressional districts, where representation is precisely proportional to the popular vote.

However, this system defeats one of the main advantages of the House: those specific representatives are tied to their districts.

This allows for a more personal representation in Congress that most people wouldn’t want to give up.

In a perfect world, Congress wouldn’t want to gerrymander. After all, it taints a victory.

Republicans may have control of the House right now, but it’s because of gerrymandering. If they had more self-respect, they should lose gracefully than win with dirty tactics. This applies to both parties, but it just so happens that Republicans are the most current example.

But that’s a pipe dream. As long as politicians have the power to determine district lines, gerrymandering is going to exist.

So why not outsource, like we’ve done with the Federal Reserve? The only solution, I think, is to make creating congressional district lines the responsibility of a non-partisan committee of professionals appointed and approved by Congress.

But Congress isn’t likely to do that either. Unless their constituents demand it, giving up power isn’t their first priority.

 

Kent Veshaw, a sophomore creative writing and mathamatics major from Apex, is an opinion writer.

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